Devotions for Mark 12:1-12
February 22-28, 2016
Monday, February 22, 2016
“A man planted a vineyard, put a fence around it” (Mark 12:1a).
After a pleasant afternoon of visiting vineyards and tasting wine, a person begins to realize the care, dedication and hard work that a vineyard demands. As Jesus begins to tell his story of the wicked tenants, the hearers and readers of the story sense the loving care of the landowner. He plants the vineyard (no easy task). A fence is built around the vineyard to protect it and the landowner build a wine press to harvest what the vineyard produces. When he is finished the landowner turns his beautiful creation over to tenants who he trusts will continue to care for and tend the vineyard.
Originally Jesus told this story as a parable against the religious leaders of Jerusalem. The Lord had given the people of Israel over to their leaders to be cared for and nourished. The political and religious authorities, though, had instead taken advantage of the people and used them to their leaders’ own gratification. God’s people had been harmed—enslaved like they had been in Egypt, and the Lord had been dishonored.
It doesn’t take a stretch of the imagination to apply this parable to ourselves and creation. With a loving hand God created the universe. God gave the earth to humankind to nourish and manage. We haven’t been true to our calling. We have raped the land, plundered the earth’s resources and used God’s gift for our own selfish purposes. The political and religious leaders of Jesus’ day refused to listen to the message of the parable. We, however, can heed its message and care for the creation we have been given.
God of Creation, help us to tend your creation and to use its resources wisely. Amen.
Tuesday, February 23, 2016
“He leased it to tenants” (Mark 12:1b).
After the landlord created the vineyard he leased it to tenants. The landlord did not sell the land to the tenants. The tenants forgot this. They decided that the vineyard was theirs. The tenants decided that the vineyard’s produce was also theirs and not the landlords. The task of management was mutated into a false sense of possession.
Tim and Linda surveyed their “kingdom.” They had a beautiful home, nice cars, two wonderful children, clothes to convey their status and enough grown up toys to fill their already crowded days. They had worked hard for all that they had. It was theirs to do with what they wanted and they determined to keep it to themselves. They turned their back to the needs of others and used creation as if its resources were endless.
We can criticize Tim and Linda, but we often act like them. We, too, talk about how we have worked hard for what we have. We are tempted to view what we have as possessions and not as gifts. This parable reminds us that God didn’t sell us creation, but rather God gave it to us. Possessions inspire selfish pride while gifts cultivate an attitude of thankfulness and gratitude. We have a lot for which to be thankful.
God of Abundance, thank you for the gifts and blessings you have given us. May we use them in ways that honor you. Amen.
Wednesday, February 24, 2016
“They seized him and beat him and sent him away empty handed” (Mark 12:3).
Juaquin sat on the examination table in the small room waiting while his doctor scanned his test results. “Well,” his doctor began, “The test results aren’t good. Your total cholesterol is up and the good cholesterol is down. Your blood sugar is near diabetes level and your blood pressure is high.” The doctor raised his eyes from the charts and looked Juaquin in the eyes. “Things need to change if you want to enjoy your grandchildren. You need to change what you eat, get some exercise and lose weight.” Juaquin didn’t want to hear what the doctor had to say. He agreed that he needed to lose a few pounds but his health wasn’t that bad.
The Israelites had a history of wandering. They would wander off from their relationship with God. They would worship false gods and idols. God sent prophets to call them back into a relationship with God. The people didn’t want to listen to the prophets. They didn’t like what the prophets told them.
We like to hear God’s words of love and comfort. It is difficult for us, though, when the Holy Spirit reprimands us and points out words or actions that do not honor God. We like to hear that we are loved. We don’t like to learn that we have sinned. God will never stop loving us, but God also knows that the path toward free and abundant lives is through confession, repentance and forgiveness.
Loving Lord, open our hearts and unstop our ears that we may hear you speak to us. Enable us to turn from our wandering and turn to you. Amen.
Thursday, February 25, 2016
“He had still one other, a beloved son” (Mark 12:6).
Akihito and Koharu had an unusual relationship. They had an ongoing contest as to who could communicate their love for the other in the most numerous and creative ways. Akihito liked to give his wife cards, flowers and frequently cook her favorite meal. Koharu favored text messages, pictures and massages. It was not a surprise to the people who knew them that Akihito and Koharu’s love for each other was deep and vibrant.
The Lord sent his messengers, the prophets, to communicate God’s love for the Israelites. Scores of prophets were sent over the centuries to tell God’s people that God loved them with a steadfast love and desired for them to live in a close, dynamic relationship with God. Few people heard or responded to God’s declaration of love. So, God sent God’s Son, Jesus. The life, death and resurrection of Jesus is the clearest revelation of God’s love for humankind. Still, many didn’t see or respond to that love.
Every Sunday we celebrate the good news of God’s love in the person of Jesus. Throughout the week we can rejoice and give thanks for God’s ongoing demonstrations of God’s love for us. God provides for us and protects us. God showers us with blessings and is never apart from us. God’s love is steadfast and our thanksgiving can be none stop.
God of Love and Grace, thank you for your love for us. May it overflow our lives so that we can share it with others. Amen.
Friday, February 26, 2016
“Let us kill him and the inheritance will be ours” (Mark 12:7).
The tenants weren’t thinking when they made this comment. They might kill the landowner’s son, but they would not inherit the vineyard. They were not family. Their greed, though, caused them to think and act irrationally. The tenants could only think about getting more for themselves and they didn’t consider the consequences. Selfishness and self-centeredness not only blind us to the needs of others but also to the future. Our thinking is only for the short-term.
Watching squirrels collect nuts on a fall day can be a lesson in human behavior. They run around gathering nuts and storing them for the winter. They may have stored enough food for the winter, but they don’t stop. They keep burying more and more nuts until they can’t do it any longer. Squirrels collect so many acorns that they forget where they bury many of them.
There’s a little bit of a squirrel in every one of us. We never think we have enough. It takes God’s love and the work of the Holy Spirit to change our perspective and our behavior. As disciples of Jesus, the Lord never calls us to “gather nuts until we can’t do so any longer.” We are called to help each other and perhaps share some of the acorns that we have gathered. Greed is not a fruit of the Spirit, but generosity is.
God of Time, remind us that our lives are in your hands. Free us from worrying about ourselves so that we can concern ourselves with the needs of the people around us. Amen.
Saturday, February 27, 2016
“He will come and destroy the tenants and give the vineyard to others” (Mark 12:9).
The conclusion of Jesus’ story never happens. The tenants are not destroyed. Through the cross of Christ they were forgiven even though they may not have lived in the reality of their forgiveness. The Lord never stopped loving them. The scribes, Pharisees, chief priests and Sadducees were never excluded from God’s grace.
We may think that some people do such bad things that God must reject and condemn them. We know that we certainly would. The Lord does not. Instead the Lord continues to love them, to encourage them to turn from their wicked, selfish ways and invites them into a relationship with God. This is good news for us. There is nothing that we can say or do that will separate us from God’s love. God will always love us; God will never let us go.
Forgiving Lord, thank you for your forgiveness. Enable us to forgive ourselves and empower us to walk in the new life that is ours through Jesus. Amen.
Sunday, February 28, 2016
“He had told this parable against them” (Mark 12:12).
We all have secrets. The chief priests, scribes and Pharisees had their secrets. They wanted to impress people with their piety and they didn’t want anyone to know what was underneath their façade. Some of the chief priests’, scribes’ and Pharisees’ secrets were so well hidden that they may have not known about them themselves. Jesus’ parable revealed their secrets to others. With their secrets revealed, the religious authorities did not respond to Jesus with contrition, but rather with contempt.
We try to hide our secrets. We may do a fairly good job in hiding them from others. God, though, knows our hearts and sees our secrets. As the Psalmist discovered (Psalm 139) there is simply no place where we can go to hide from God. The good news is that God knows us AND God still loves us. God invites us to be honest with ourselves and with God, to confess our sin, to repent and to receive God’s forgiveness. Freed from our secrets, from our guilt and shame we can live the new life that God offers to all of us.
God of Light, shine in our lives. Reveal the secrets we keep in the dark corners and cleanse us from them. Walk with us as we experience the new life that is ours. Amen.